Kentucky Spinal Cord Injury Lawyers
Damage to the spinal cord, or the bundle of nerves that run through an individual’s backbone, can have a lasting impact on a person’s life. Because the spinal cord transmits sensation and controls the body’s movement, an injury to the spinal cord could cause loss of feeling and mobility below the impacted area and in severe cases, could prove to be fatal.
According to the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center (NSCISC) “a recent estimate shows that the annual incidence of spinal cord injury (SCI) is approximately 54 cases per 1 million people in the United States, or about 17,700 new SCI cases each year. The number of people with SCI living in the United States is currently estimated to be approximately 288,000 people.”
Vehicle crashes are the leading cause of spinal cord injury, closely followed by falls and sports-related accidents, studies conducted by the NSCISC show.
If you or your loved one has suffered a spinal cord injury in an accident caused by another party’s negligence, it is important to hire an attorney who has experience handling these types of cases. The Paul Baker Law Office represents spinal cord injury victims throughout the greater Barbourville area of Kentucky. Our team of personal injury attorneys are ready to help you get the compensation you are owed.
Our firm understands the tremendous costs and challenges that people face after they’ve suffered a spinal cord injury. We work tirelessly to help victims seek justice. Call us or complete an online contact form to schedule a free consultation to discuss your legal options.
Filing a Personal Injury Claim in Kentucky After a Spinal Cord Injury
After sustaining an injury, Kentucky limits the time you have to file a claim for compensation. If you’ve been injured, the first thing you should do after receiving medical care is contact an attorney. An experienced lawyer will be able to conduct an independent investigation of the accident and identify all responsible parties.
Your attorney can then evaluate the value of your claim based on all of your past, present, and expected costs. Once this amount has been calculated, the lawyer will send a demand letter to the at-fault parties seeking compensation. Aggressive negotiations often result in an agreeable settlement. If the case doesn’t settle, the claim may go to court.
Filing for Disability After a Spinal Cord Injury in Kentucky
Spinal cord injury victims are frequently unable to return to work and may be entitled to Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. To qualify you for SSDI benefits, you must be unable to work for a minimum of 12 months.
The Social Security Administration (SSA) uses a list of impairments found in its “Blue Book” to determine which disabilities qualify for benefits. Section 1.04 of the Blue Book is dedicated to disorders of the spine that include damage to the spinal cord.
To qualify for SSDI benefits under this listing, a spinal cord injury victim’s medical records will have to demonstrate:
- Evidence of nerve root compression characterized by neuro-anatomic distribution of pain, limitation of motion of the spine, motor loss accompanied by sensory or reflex loss and, if there is involvement of the lower back, positive straight-leg raising test.
- Spinal arachnoiditis, confirmed by an operative note or pathology report of tissue biopsy, or by appropriate medically acceptable imaging, manifested by severe burning or painful dysesthesia, resulting in the need for changes in position or posture more than once every two hours.
- Lumbar spinal stenosis resulting in pseudoclaudication, established by findings on appropriate medically acceptable imaging, manifested by chronic nonradicular pain and weakness, and resulting in an inability to ambulate effectively.
The Paul Baker Law Office has been helping people all over Kentucky obtain SSDI benefits for decades. If you’ve suffered a severe spinal cord injury and need benefits, our team will be there to help you secure them.
Compensation for a Spinal Cord Injury in Kentucky
While most spinal cord injury civil actions are resolved through settlements either before or after a lawsuit has been filed, some cases do go to trial. At trial, you as a victim must prove your case by a preponderance of the evidence. That is, you must show that the defendant is more likely than not responsible for your injuries. Once you have successfully met this burden of proof, a jury can award compensatory damages.
Compensatory damages are usually a combination of economic damages and noneconomic damages. Economic damages refer to tangible losses a victim has suffered or will suffer, such as past and future medical bills and lost income.
Non-economic damages are much more subjective. Common kinds of noneconomic damages include disfigurement, pain and suffering or even the effects suffered by a family as a result of the victim’s injury.
In rare cases, a victim could also be awarded punitive damages. Punitive damages are usually awarded more to punish a defendant for particularly negligent or reckless conduct. Under Kentucky Revised Statute § 411.184(2), punitive damages can be recovered only if the injured party proves by “clear and convincing evidence” that the at-fault party acted in an oppressive, fraudulent or malicious manner. This is a much stricter burden of proof.
Another important consideration concerns the victim’s degree of fault for the accident. Kentucky uses a pure comparative fault system for negligence claims. Under this system, a plaintiff can recover from a defendant even when they were partially at fault, but the amount rewarded is ultimately reduced by the percentage in which the plaintiff’s injuries were a result of their own negligence.
Under Kentucky Revised Statute § 411.182, a jury determines both the damages the injured party is entitled to and the percentage of fault allocated to each party involved. For example, if the injured party is awarded $100,000 for medical compensation but is found to be 15 percent at fault for their injuries, their award will be reduced by $15,000. Therefore, the injured party ultimately receives $85,000.
Common Causes of Spinal Cord Injuries
Most spinal cord injuries are caused by sudden blows to the spinal cord that fracture or dislocate vertebrae. The spinal cord could also be damaged if it is cut or severed in an accident.
A few of the most common causes of spinal cord injuries in Kentucky include:
Spinal cord injuries can also occur through other types of person-to-person interactions such as sports-related accidents or assaults. Whenever a spinal cord injury is caused by another party’s negligence or wrongful conduct, a victim could be entitled to compensation for their medical bills, lost wages, and other damages.
Symptoms of a Spinal Cord Injury
The symptoms of a spinal cord injury depend on whether a victim’s injury is classified as complete or incomplete. Incomplete spinal cord injuries involve a partial severance of the spinal cord and victims often retain some function below the affected area. Complete spinal cord injuries, meaning the spinal cord has been severed, often result in the loss of all feeling and ability to control movement below the affected area.
The spinal cord is divided into five regions, and the area affected can often dictate the severity of a victim’s symptoms:
- Cervical (C1-C8) — The uppermost part of the spinal cord, injuries can result in paralysis in the arms, hands, trunk, and legs. The most severe injuries usually involve damage to nerves C1-C4.
- Thoracic (T1-T12) — The middle of the spinal cord, injuries usually affect a victim’s legs and feeling below the waist, although hands and arms are typically unaffected.
- Lumbar (L1-L5) — This region is the lower back and injuries also affect body functions below the waist (such as the ability to control bowel movements), but do not affect hand and arm functions.
- Sacral — Injuries to nerves at the lower end of the spinal cord may affect parts of the body below the waist.
- Coccyx — More commonly referred to as the tailbone, an injury to the coccygeal segment usually results in pain but usually does not affect function.
Some of the most common incomplete spinal cord injuries include Brown-Sequard syndrome, anterior cord syndrome, and central cord syndrome. Complete spinal cord injuries include paraplegia (paralysis of the legs and the lower half of the body), tetraplegia or quadriplegia (paralysis of all limbs), and triplegia (paralysis of one arm and both legs).
Treatment for a Spinal Cord Injury
When a victim is being treated for a spinal cord injury, the acute stages of treatment typically focus on immobilizing the neck to prevent further damage. Additional steps are taken to avoid shock, ensure a victim can breathe well, and to prevent complications.
After being admitted to an intensive care unit, many victims are then transferred to spinal cord injury centers to receive treatment from specialists. Some spinal cord injury victims may be prescribed certain medications.
In some instances, spinal cord injury victims may require additional immobilization efforts, including special beds. Some may need additional surgery and lengthy rehabilitation.
Depending on the location and severity of the injury, the person could be confined to a wheelchair. They may require ongoing treatment for prevention of secondary problems, such as pressure ulcers (bedsores), blood clots, and bowel and bladder issues.
Long-Term Effects of a Spinal Cord Injury
A person who suffers a spinal cord injury often faces dramatic changes in what they can do for themselves. Even after being released from a hospital, they may be unable to return to work, and many people are unable to care for themselves without assistance.
Many studies have also found that spinal cord injuries exacerbate physical declines, such that victims frequently experience medical problems at younger ages than the rest of the population. Such declines may affect the cardiovascular (heart), musculoskeletal (bones and muscles), pulmonary (lungs), gastrointestinal (stomach and intestines), or integumentary (skin) system.
Mounting medical bills and other costs associated with caring for a spinal cord injury patient can be financially devastating. An attorney can help alleviate this financial burden by seeking the compensation you’re entitled to recover from those at fault.
Contact a Kentucky Spinal Cord Injury Attorney
Did you or your loved one suffer a spinal cord injury in an accident caused by another party’s negligence in Kentucky? You will want to seek legal representation as soon as possible.
The Paul Baker Law Office helps spinal cord injury victims pursue the compensation and justice they are owed. You can have one of our attorneys provide a complete evaluation of your case when you call us or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.